Evaluating Our Winter In Florida

The wide, flat beach (at low tide) at Daytona Beach, Florida continues to be a popular spot to drive, park, and play. Fine grain sand beaches border the state on both Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Now that Betty & I are back in Friendly Manitoba for the summer, how do we assess our recent visit to Florida? First, it can be said that so many northern snowbirds winter in Florida that a story about our tour of the state does not constitute news for anyone outside of our immediate friends and family. In reality, as we age and our memories fade, this review is as much for reminding ourselves about our winter adventure, as informing others.  Of course, this kind of assessment is purely subjective, but hope you can still enjoy the read.

The Weather

Bet catches some rays at Siesta Key near Sarasota, Florida

One of the main reasons snowbirds winter in Florida is to escape the potentially brutal cold of a northern winter, and to enjoy the mild and sometimes tropical temperatures in the south. These days regional weather can be quite unpredictable, but there is no doubt we picked the right state to visit this year! (Fingers crossed that Arizona has a warm winter next year, as that is our anticipated destination.) January, February, and March were all warm months in Florida, with many days and weeks moving into the stinkin’ hot range, where the beaches beckoned and margaritas kept us cool and lubricated. Flip flop weather indeed!

The Campgrounds

The popular, hard-to-book campground at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys.

From trying unsuccessfully to book sites in the Florida Keys state parks eleven months in advance, we knew certain popular spots would be inaccessible. Betty & I prefer to stay in national and state parks, but as it turned out, nearly all southern Florida state parks were fully booked for the winter. During our travels we were able to pick up a day or two at some nice parks, but often there was nothing more available.

Our campsite (#4) in Tiger Bay State forest, on the outskirts of Daytona Beach, was one of only six in the Bennett Field Campground. Each site is approx. an acre in size!

We had not previously stayed in Florida State Forests, and found them to be a great, cost-effective alternative, especially since we are now better equipped for boondocking. Some state forest campgrounds came with electricity and/or water and a dump station, but you couldn’t always count on services being available. Some of our best extended stays in Florida were at beautiful unserviced state forest campgrounds.

Our Pine Island Boondockers Welcome camp spot was nestled in the palms at a palm tree farm.

 

Growing in popularity for us and others are Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Host locations. All of our experiences with both organizations were positive, with some clearly rating as trip highlights.

 

Betty watched the river go by at Larry’s wonderful boondockers property near LaBelle, Florida.

Betty & I generally steer away from private campgrounds, but the Ocala North RV Park in Reddick, Florida is one we would consider again, especially if they could find the correct Scottish spelling of the town’s name. lol.  Some of the county campgrounds were very pleasant, including Markham Park and T.Y. Park in the Fort Lauderdale area, and Manatee Hammock Park further up the coast at Titusville.

Traversing The State

The view of the Atlantic Ocean from our site (#2) at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area.

Unlike Manitoba, Florida has invested in providing wide, smooth roads for travellers. Despite a few rough construction/congestion patches on I95 through the Gold Coast area, most roads were well-marked and a pleasure to drive. In planning our adventure, we estimated that we would drive 7,916 miles on this portion of our overlandish odyssey. Our odometer told us we actually travelled 8,026 miles, so we weren’t far off.

Our free Harvest Host campsite: Far Reach Ranch north of Orlando.

Many snowbirds find one preferred site, and book it for the winter. Because this was an exploratory trip, we chose to visit most of the state, working our way across and down the gulf coast to Key West, and then up the Atlantic side to Amelia Island.

Hanging out with Mickey
Betty, Georgia, Valerie, Kevin, Isabella & Graham

 

Meeting our kids and grandkids at Orlando’s Disney World in February was, for sure, a highlight of this memorable journey. We pray that those fond memories remain with them, as they will with us, for a long, long time!

Future Trips?

We certainly hope that this was not our last visit to the sunshine state. If we return, would we replicate the most recent trip? The answer is “no”. Not because there was anything wrong with exploring as

Our campsite at Picayune Strand State Forest, on the outskirts of Naples, Florida

much of the state as possible in the time available. But now that we have done that, we have identified some of our favourite spots, and would like to go back and stay longer at a few preferred locations, instead of almost constantly being on the move.

While we still value spontaneity, we would aim for a better Internet

A wonderful view from our campsite at Curry Hammock State Park in the Florida Keys. The site was only available for one night.

connection in order to book Bahia Honda, Curry Hammock, and John Pennekamp State Parks (and Long Key, if it re-opens) in the Florida Keys. We would also try for a beach side campsite at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area north of Daytona Beach as well. Not as congested, Big Lagoon State Park on Florida’s panhandle – with nearby Gulf coast beaches at Pensacola – was also a favourite.

A nice picnic spot at Curry Hammock State Park.

There is obviously much more that can be said about the people, places and attractions we visited in Florida, but this little vignette is beginning to exceed my preferred blog post length. We now have hard copy and electronic files related to each of our trips, and are accumulating info for upcoming adventures. If future travels are anywhere near as outstanding as this past winter in Florida, we’ll be more than happy! Here’s hoping that your journeys are just as joyful and jubilant!

Cheers!

Another great beach day near Naples, Florida.

Lost In Time & Space

Betty adds Illinois to our map, after a harrowing drive around Chicago in a heavy rain storm.

It has been somewhat disorienting to make the journey from the summer-like winter heat of Florida to the early spring-time weather in Winnipeg. While the rest of the continent was chilling, Betty & I spent January, February and March of this year under the balmy Florida sun. Light clothing, sunscreen and bug repellent were de rigueur. The grass was green and lawnmowers buzzed. Tropical plants and trees lined Florida’s highways and byways. Flowers bloomed profusely wherever we travelled. The ocean and beaches beckoned and we were in flip-flop heaven!

We crossed the border from International Falls, Minnesota, to Fort Frances, Ontario, and spent a pleasant, free night at a roadside park beside the Rainy River in Fort Frances.

Then as we gradually moved up the east coast during April, the leaves began to revert to buds. And by the time we reached Winnipeg as May began, the trees were devoid of their lush foliage! Ice was still present on some lakes in Ontario’s Lake of The Woods, and roadside patches of snow marked the landscape. We felt the chill breezes and watched the old leaves blow across the dormant grass, and sensed that fall was in the air.

Roadside snow was still present when we stopped for lunch at Falcon Lake, Manitoba in early May, 2019.

But apparently it’s not…  While we still need to keep a heater running in our plumbing bay and the campground water is not yet turned on, Betty & I have been assured by family and friends that winter is over and spring is on its way! We are not yet rushing out to buy flowers for our “yard”, but will take their word that better weather lies ahead.

If you are reading this in the northern hemisphere, let us together hope that the cold dark days are behind us, and a warm bright season of flip-flop heaven is soon to come!

Cheers!

Our campsite (#168) at Town & Country in Winnipeg, awaits summer foliage.
Graham adds Wisconsin, the 37th state (+ District of Columbia, which may still become a state) to our sticker map. These, and 6 provinces, have all been visited since December, 2017. It’s time to slow down a little!

The RV Hall of Fame

Betty leads the way to the RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana.
The RV Hall of Fame floor plan is designed like a road, with RVs of all ages, shapes and sizes along the way.

As full-time RVers, Betty & I encounter motorhomes, 5thwheels, and trailers of all shapes and sizes while traversing the continent. It’s always fun to see new and different features designed to make life on the road more enjoyable.  Some units are larger and can carry more “stuff”.  Some are smaller and more aerodynamic, achieving better fuel economy. There is no one size that fits all. Everyone has preferred features, and nowadays, RVs are manufactured with a broad range of possible accessories from which to choose.

A scale model of an RV assembly plant is on display.

It turns out that approximately 80% of North American RVs are manufactured or assembled in and around Elkhart, Indiana. So it is not untoward that Elkhart is the home of the RV Hall of Fame. And it also makes sense that dedicated RVers make pilgrimage to this site, if they are in the vicinity.

We are seeing more retro versions of this travel trailer on the road these days.

As mentioned in our last post, Betty & I crossed back into the U.S. at Detroit, Michigan and travelled southwest through Elkhart on our way past Chicago, under Lake Michigan, and up the other side to Canada again.  We had stopped in Elkhart on previous trips to tour motorhome assembly plants and purchase hard-to-find parts, but we had never visited the RV Hall of Fame. While this leg of our journey was relatively brief, Betty & I thought we’d take the time to check out the exhibits there.

One of the first exhibits visited was this 1913 Model T, with all-wood travel trailer.

 

 

 

 

 

Either an extra large toaster, or an early Airstream. lol
A 1964 Coachmen motorhome.
Betty examines a 1957 Teardrop trailer, which has returned to popularity.
A 1954 Holliday Rambler came well-equipped for its time.
This 1939 trailer was designed for aviator Charles Lindbergh.
This is a 1969 Pace Arrow by Fleetwood.
The Pace Arrow dash has evolved a little over the past 50 years.
One of my favourite vehicles was this 1931 housecar used by celebrity Mae West.
Mae West’s housecar had a back porch, just like some new toy haulers!
Betty checks out the 19′ 1967 Winnebago. (BTW, while I told one RV repair shop that we were from Winnipeg, our bill listed our address as Winnebago, QC. lol)
A 1974 GMC motorhome. The 1973 -78 models were well ahead of their time in styling and features.
Hundreds of toy RVs are on display at the RV Hall of Fame.
More miniature RVs on display at the RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you catch the wanderlust, it is worthwhile to research all available options before choosing a mode of transportation. There are lots of RV choices out there, but whichever you opt for, enjoy some time exploring our great continent and its wonderful inhabitants.

Cheers!

Betty says “Indiana wants me. Lord I can go back there!”

Crossing The Border (Yikes!)

Almost all travellers who have crossed international borders have stories to tell.  As Forest Gump might put it: “Crossing the border is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get!”  Well, yesterday Betty & I got an unusual surprise, which I hope never to repeat…

My preface to that story is that a motorhome is not a car, and it is not a commercial truck. That may seem obvious, but as a driver I am regularly challenged to make a split-second decision as to whether I want to act like a car, or act like a truck, while driving our continent’s highways and byways.

Permit me to provide a few examples: When approaching a highway rest area, a sign will direct car traffic in one direction, and truck traffic to a different parking area. If we were to follow the cars, our motorhome would not fit the parking spaces. So we go with the trucks unless, as mentioned in an earlier post, we are on the Ohio Turnpike and can go to dedicated RV parking. Yippee!

A very special Ohio Turnpike RV parking space, complete with electrical hook-up..

When we fill up with gas, we prefer to go to Flying J truck stops that have dedicated RV pumps, because we are too big to manoeuvre around many car pumps, and do not use the diesel at the truck pumps.

Resting at a Flying J truck stop in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on our way to Florida in December, 2018.

Yesterday we entered a toll road where the “cash only” lane was too narrow for us, and the “EZ Pass” lane was listed for oversized vehicles. We only had cash, but chose the oversized lane behind some 18 wheelers.  When I pushed the elevated ticket button, the ticket came out of a car slot which was 4’ lower. Despite calling for “go-go-gadget arms” there was no way to reach that ticket, so Betty had to get out, retrieve it, and return to her seat before the barrier went back down again.

A little car follows our motorhome wherever it goes.

Well, there are many more examples I could provide, but I’m sure you’re waiting with baited breath to hear about our border crossing adventure. In context, you must understand that the road through Windsor, Ontario leading over the Ambassador Bridge to Detroit, Michigan, is under construction. In fact, the bridge itself is on life-support, and we believe our gps was constantly trying to get us to go hundreds of miles north to the Blue Water Bridge between Sarnia and Port Huron in order to save our lives. In retrospect, maybe she (Samantha is our gps) knew something we didn’t!

Trucks were instructed to use the outside lanes prior to the bridge, but then switch to the inside lanes at bridge approach. We shifted from the curb lane, through the truck traffic, to the car lanes, only to find those lanes merged again with the trucks a few hundred feet (metres?) up the bridge approach. Most of the bridge was single lane, with trucks and cars combined. Beyond the crest – as we approached U.S. Customs – commercial truck traffic was diverted to the far right, with car traffic to the majority of kiosks on the left. Car traffic was fairly light at that point, with cars lined up at 3-4 of the check-points. But one of the OPEN check-points toward the right had no cars waiting, so that’s where we went. BIG MISTAKE!

If you enlarge this pic, you can see a small “auto only” sign under some of the large, lighted OPEN signs at U.S. Customs in Detroit, Michigan. It is easy enough to read while stopped, but not so much when you’re coming off a bridge and  negotiating merging traffic in a motorhome..

As I began to pull up to the first set of bollards I was able to read a small sign (under the huge lighted green OPEN sign) that read “auto only”. Well, at that point I was too close to the bollards to turn, and cannot back up with the Smart 4 wheels down on behind. The border officer left his post to frantically tell me to move my vehicle away from his lane, but that was easier said than done. I began to disconnect the car and Betty & Charlie came out to go in the car, as is our practice when we disconnect. But the flustered border officer insisted they go back in the motorhome, until he realized that I wasn’t going to be able to drive the car and the motorhome at the same time!

Betty was allowed to leave the motorhome, but the dog had to stay with me for some reason. She quickly grabbed her passport and drove through the checkpoint after I backed up and moved to the only line – on the far left – that had a small RV sign below the auto lane sign. Of course, because the Smart was the first car through after that lane re-opened, Betty was way ahead of me.  I had six cars slowly making their way through Customs in front of me, so called her to see where we could meet up on the other side. To my surprise, her phone rang on the dash beside me. Oops!

When I finally reached the Customs officer, he asked me all the routine questions. But where do I go with the answers? “Are you and the dog travelling alone?” No. “Where is your wife?” I don’t know…  It just went from bad to worse, with him arguing that I should have backed the motorhome up with the car on the back, even though I did that once in Austin, Texas, resulting in serious damage to the Smart’s steering column. By the end of our conversation, he was leaned back in his chair, telling me all the spots in Wyoming and Utah we needed to visit. I was just anxious to get out of there are get back on the road again.

Well, to make a potentially longer story short, I found Betty and the Smart on the side of the road, beyond the toll booth, and we were able to hook up (literally. Lol) and continue our trip to Elkhart, Indiana.  Just another day in the adventurous life of the Ramblin’ Reddochs.

Cheers!

Graham adds Michigan to our sticker map, with a not- soon-forgotten entry! Michigan seems like a dream to him now…

Brotherly Love

Betty is flanked by her two  older brothers, Bill & Jack.

What kind of chemistry is involved in creating a family, and how does that formula change over time? I guess there is no single recipe, but this week I had opportunity to observe a couple of examples of fine family dynamics.

During formative years, sibling rivalry can have a significant impact on relationships. There can be a perception that one son or daughter gets all the attention, while another is neglected. One is the favourite son, while another is the black sheep of the family. The perception that “mother loved you best” can extend for decades, but usually begins to fade with maturity and the death of our parents.

Jack & Bill share a laugh with their younger sister.

Our youngest daughter, Lisa, has a PhD in psychology and specializes in understanding relationships, so I’m sure she is better equipped to analyse sibling relationships than her dear old dad. Suffice to say, from my simple observations, it was heartwarming to see the love, joy and affection shown this week between Betty and her two brothers, Bill and Jack.

Betty & I had worked our way up the U.S. eastern seaboard, and decided to hold up in southern Ontario until we were fairly sure that the snow was gone from Winnipeg. We were unable to spend more time in the U.S. for fear

Rick, Penny, Graham, Betty & Jack enjoy Ontario springtime sun.

of exceeding the “180 day rule”, but we also wanted to have a little time with Betty’s big brothers. Brother Jack, and his wife Christine live in Amherstburg, Ontario – outside the normal snow belt.  Her other brother Bill, and his dear wife Heather, were able to make the 5 hour drive down from their home northwest of Toronto, so there was ample opportunity to both reminisce and build new memories. As it turned out, we also reconnected with old friends, Rick & Penny, who stopped by at the beginning of their RV trip to the west.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that historic

Jack, Betty & Christine join Graham at the nearby Colio Estate Winery.

Amherstburg has a number of fine restaurants, and sits nicely on the Lake Erie North Shore wine route. Wherever we went in this extreme southern corner of Ontario, we had a great time sharing our lives with family and friends. As we left, there were hugs and kisses all round (and a few tears), and it was wonderful to experience this brotherly love.

Betty is excited to find the Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery.

Just a quick further example: Betty & I spent Easter Sunday in that Ohio Turnpike Service Plaza while our 9 family members – pictured on the first page of www.reddoch.ca– shared a traditional turkey dinner together. Through FaceTime we sat at the table with them, and observed another great example of brotherly (and sisterly) love. Here’s praying that our grandkids, and all in the next generation, find the loving formula that keeps our families together!

Cheers!

Bill, Jack, Heather, Christine, Betty & Graham share a meal at the Beach House restaurant in Kingsville, Ontario.
These are the original oak barrels at the Pelee Island Winery. They are about 7′ in diameter.
This is one of those barrels, after brother Bill finished the contents, while Heather looks on!
These tanks at Pelee Island Winery hold wines in process.
These oak barrels are used for aging wines at Pelee Island Winery.
A few special bottles make it into this wine cellar at Pelee Island Winery.
Betty makes a classic two-fisted manoeuvre at Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery.
Back at the motorhome, Graham prepared his famous prosciutto- wrapped asparagus for another shared meal, with a bottle of beaujolais on the side.
Christine hams it up at Colio Estate Winery, where, as a frequent flyer, she is on a first name basis with staff. lol
Christine, Jack, Betty and Graham experience yet another downtown Amherstburg restaurant.
Our last night was spent at this Historic Amherstburg Boondockers Welcome home, with much appreciation for the Medlers’ hospitality!.
A final pic of sister and brotherly love. Cheers!

Where Words Fail, Music Speaks

The message on the back of my Ryman Auditorium sweatshirt, celebrating 125 years of music.

In many of our blog posts, we have used musical references to highlight the vibe of our visit. Whether or not the songs resonate with all generations, they

Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, on the Lake Erie waterfront.

connect Betty & me to memorable experiences throughout our lifetimes. This week we drove down a kind of musical memory lane, stopping in Cleveland, Ohio for a tour through the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It was fun to re-live moments – particularly from our youth – that spoke to us through moving, evocative songs in ways far greater than simple words could deliver.

Betty & I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, as we literally drove through the Appalachian Mountains.

After leaving Washington, D.C., we drove through Maryland and Pennsylvania, catching a section of the Appalachian Mountain range on our way to Ohio. On our first night at an Ohio Turnpike rest area – known as a Service Plaza – we were surprised to see how large and extensive the services were there. While we didn’t make use of it that night, we noted a dedicated RV parking area with 50 & 30 amp hook-ups, a dump station, and drinking water available.

We found convenient RV parking at the First Energy Football Stadium next to the R & R Hall of Fame.

On arriving in Cleveland, we parked in the 1,000 stall lot of a football stadium next to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. We had checked in advance, confirming that we could stay the night there if we wanted, for $36. As it turned out, we were the only vehicles in the lot (except for the security SUV and attendant’s car). We were able to leave the Smart attached to our motorhome during our visit, and decided to move on to our next destination after we got our music fix.

A trilogy of Jimmy Hendrix guitars, at least 3 that weren’t battered and burnt….

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame contains a wide variety of musical memorabilia from a broad range of artists. We couldn’t help but think of our two talented musical sons as we examined the many instruments on exhibit – from  pianos and organs to acoustic and electrical guitars and drums. Costumes worn on stage were prominently displayed, as

Clothing worn by Hendrix on stage.

were hand written song lyrics, record contracts, and personal items, such as Jim Morrison’s Boy Scout uniform! (lol). Pictures and recordings were present at each display, and a variety of theatres showed videos and movies of artists like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and many more. This post only captures a few of the inductees from the years since the Hall of Fame was established in 1983.

Betty & I could have spent much longer seeing and hearing from the artists that influenced us in our formative years. I was reminded of the differences between access to media in the 50s, 60s and 70s, compared to current, immediate

John, Paul, George & Ringo had a bit of influence. My uncle in Liverpool sold insurance to Paul McCartney’s uncle, so we were almost related. lol.

information about artists that is available on the www now. Back in the day, we had to watch Ed Sullivan and American Bandstand to see who was hot or up-and-coming. Then we would have to find a record store that carried the 45 rpm single or 33 1/3 l.p. that had the songs we wanted to hear. A.M. radio stations had very narrow prescribed

The Who, before CSI made them famous. lol.

play lists, and if you weren’t into “bubble gum” music you had to wait until underground F.M. stations hit the air. For me, it was WABX in Detroit that introduced us to the artists whose songs were too long or radical for commercial A.M. radio. The disc jockey would put on an l.p.. You would listen to the whole side, and a minute after the needle would

One of Pete Townsend’s guitars. Sense the windmill.

start to click at the end of the record, he would come back on and hazily say “Far out, man. Let’s listen to another one!” lol.  There was no social media to promote Woodstock and other similar outdoor mega concerts that followed, just a lot of underground word of mouth. It was a different era, but obviously someone who wasn’t too stoned captured it and made the footage available to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Far out man!

Some Rolling Stones memorabilia. I think Mick can still fit in most of that stuff!

At the end of our visit, we moved on to another Ohio Turnpike Service Plaza were we stayed the night with 50 amp electrical service, dump station and water – all for $20.

Graham & Betty back in the day. “The day” being September 9, 1972. Graham finally got a haircut in January, 1973. lol

There are many times in our lives that we just can’t seem to find the right words. On those occasions it’s great to be able to crank up the tunes and let the music speak!

Cheers!

Ziggy Stardust makes an appearance.
ZZ Top ends the alphabet & continues the music. Check out the hairy set of drums!
The Boss played with Bono of U2, Mick Jagger & others at a Hall of Fame Induction concert in Madison Square Garden.
John Lennon left his granny glasses behind.
Under the C – Betty!
Beside Lake Erie.  Our motorhome is parked on the other side of that tanker on the left. The sky had cleared by the time we left Cleveland.
Our home-on-wheels sits alone in the stadium parking lot.
Betty adds Pennsylvania to our sticker map.
Joined soon after by Ohio.
The Blue Heron Service Plaza on the Ohio Turnpike was our Easter Sunday resting place, giving us a chance to FaceTime with our family back in Winnipeg, where they were all enjoying a great Easter turkey dinner without us!.
The pull-through sites included electrical service for $20., with room to extend slide-outs – usually not available in a rest area.
Our day in Ohio came to an end at this well-appointed rest area. As Jim Morrison of the Doors put it: “This is the end, beautiful friend, the end. This is the end, my only friend, the end…”

Cheers!

Plan B Washington, D.C.

The Washington Monument makes a point against an ominous sky.

When we left Cape Hatteras, Betty & I intended to spend a couple of days visiting the historic sights of Washington, D.C. On the way, we spent a night at a Flying J truck stop on Interstate 95, just north of Richmond, Virginia, and arrived around noon at Greenbelt Campground, in a national park on the outskirts of the nation’s capital. While not as close as the national park campground on

Betty knits at our site (#134, loop D) at Greenbelt Campground, on the outskirts of Washington, D.C.

the Potomac River I remember staying in when John F. Kennedy was President, it is still only 12 miles away from the city centre. Our plan was similar to other city visits. We would spend a day on a local bus/trolley tour that stops at all the significant points of interest. But then the weather forecast changed, and so did our plans.

Dark clouds roll past the Canadian Embassy (left), with the U.S. Capitol in the background. I visited the Embassy when it first opened, finding a sculpture by our neighbour across the Winnipeg street – Leo Mol – prominently displayed.

Last night’s forecast for Washington today was for high winds and potential flash flooding, stalling traffic in tunnels, underpasses and low-lying areas.  The storm was moving in from the southwest, where it had already caused significant damage and some loss of life. Should we stay or should we go? Betty & I weighed our options, and came up with a Plan B.

 

We set our gps for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., but this is the closest we could get by car.
The streets around the White House are all barricaded now. Back in the day, we could drive by the front & back. I also toured inside the White House with my family when JFK was President.

Instead of committing to a bus tour, we decided to drive the Smart around the city, giving ourselves the opportunity to bail (figuratively – hopefully not literally – lol) if the weather changed for the worse. As it was, I’m not sure we didn’t take our life in our hands driving the chaotic streets of Washington, more so than battling a thunder storm.  In any event, we lived to tell the tale. And as the rain began, we headed back to a happy puppy, high and dry in our home on wheels.

Sometimes life doesn’t turn out exactly as planned. There are always elements beyond our control. But today Betty & I were able to roll with it, and continue on down the road. Best wishes for the resiliency to successfully adapt in unexpected circumstances!

Cheers!

If the current President doesn’t want to stay in the White House, he can go to the old Post Office down the street.
A more distant view of the old Post Office, which Donald Trump has converted to a hotel.
A closer view of the U.S. Capitol.
A closer view of the Washington Monument, at the other end of the National Mall from the Capitol building.
Cherry blossoms were still blooming near the Lincoln Memorial.
Graham could almost smell the cherry blossoms. (Betty says my nose should be cropped out of the pic. lol.)
Massachusetts Ave, near Dupont Circle, is lined with 175 embassies & diplomatic missions. When other kids in my public school were saying they wanted to be firefighters when they grew up, I said I wanted to be a civil servant in the diplomatic corp, after meeting one at the campsite next to ours on the Potomac River.
A closer view of the Canadian Embassy. Our ambassador for many years was Manitoba’s former premier, Gary Doer, a great guy!
Downtown Washington architecture is a great mix of old and new. St. Patrick’s Catholic Church fits the former category.
As does the Smithsonian Castle.
Graeco-Roman columns are a common element of buildings throughout the capital region. These are found on the U.S. Archives building.
A more distant view of the White House, showing its columns.
Our gps helped guide us around Dupont Circle, and up and down many other busy Washington, D.C. streets, despite the dire weather predictions…

No News Is Good News?

Choosing the calming roar of ocean waves over the disquieting din of polarized political debate. Betty & Charlie enjoy a late afternoon walk along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Before Betty & I set out on our overlandish odyssey, I confess to being something of a news junky. We were daily subscribers to the Winnipeg Free Press, with comparatively well-written local, provincial, national, and international journalism adding detailed commentary to the news gleaned nightly from CBC and CTV national and local programs.  As an engaged citizen, I always felt it was my responsibility to remain current on local and international issues. But now, might I venture to say that ignorance is bliss?

Our site (#12) at Pettigrew State Park near North Carolina’s coast. On our way to the Outer Banks…

On the one hand, it has been more difficult to keep up-to-date with significant news stories as we travel. Television reception is often poor, and quality news programming seems hard to find. If not pre-filtered to express a narrow point of view, the stories often are of a cat in a tree, interviewing the

The little bumps on logs along the roadside leading to the coast are little turtles! They take shelter in their shells for protection.

cat owner; the person whose tree the cat is occupying; the firefighter rescuing the cat;  and with a comment from someone on the street who happens to be passing by. Not that I have anything against cats (well, in fact I do. Lol), but in the overall scheme of things, there are usually more important events on which to report. “Now let’s turn to sports” says the news anchor…

A buzzard/vulture sits on the roof of a shower room at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Andrew says “Use at your own risk.” lol

On the other hand, those more important events are usually prioritized into “If it bleeds, it leads” formats. Terrorism, wars, mass shootings, earthquakes, hurricanes and tornados resulting in death and destruction all create a context for understanding the world around us. But as they invade our living rooms on a daily basis, do they skew our perception of our level of safety and our need to defend ourselves against unknown adversaries? When we remain in a terrorized state, the terrorists have won.

Ok, I have to admit that, from time to time, I check out the news on-line; enjoy picking up a local newspaper; and make sure that our bathroom magazine rack has the latest edition of Time magazine. (I haven’t seen a Maclean’s magazine since leaving Canada. lol) But for the most part we are cut off from the trials and tribulations of the world around us.

Graham & Betty attempt a selfie along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Betty & I are enjoying the natural beauty of our amazing continent and its wonderful inhabitants. We are regularly meeting interesting people from all over, and talking about favourite destinations, with conversations usually steering clear of politics and religion…  Whether in an urban park or remote forest, we have always felt safe and have never had any of our belongings stolen on day trips away from the site. Maybe some people would think we are naïve and oblivious to the risks around us. But so far we are prepared to say that: “ignorance is bliss!”  And yes, “no news is good news!”

Cheers!

Over the hump, to see the vast undulating world beyond!

Addendum: As responsible citizens, I’m not suggesting that we should permanently disconnect. A thoughtful essay by Jon Meacham in the April 8/19 edition of Time magazine quotes journalist Walter Lippmann and his early 20thcentury book, Public Opinion. He suggests we need a “…willingness to think before we decide, and to weigh before we weigh in. ‘Every man whose business it is to think,’ Lippmann observed in Public Opinion, ‘knows that he must for part of the day create for himself a pool of silence.”  Our current adventure has not only provided a pool, but a whole ocean by which we can

The Reddoch Retreat sign posted at Site P12, Frisco Campground on the Outer Banks.

contemplate life.  Can Reddoch’s Retreat lead to a time of reconnection with news of the world? Only time will tell…

Cheers!

Love you to the beach & back!

Three Little Birds, by Bob Marley:

“Don’t worry about a thing,
’cause every little thing gonna be all right.
singin’: “don’t worry about a thing,
’cause every little thing gonna be all right!”
Rise up this mornin’,
smiled with the risin’ sun,
three little birds
pitch by my doorstep
singin’ sweet songs
of melodies pure and true,
sayin’, (“this is my message to you-ou-ou:”)
Singin’: “don’t worry ’bout a thing,
’cause every little thing gonna be all right…”

Can’t have a post about Cape Hatteras without a pic of the famous lighthouse!
Plows regularly have to move the sand off the road. In Manitoba they use the same plows, but it’s not sand…
We were able to add our add-a-room at site #12 in the Cape Hatteras Frisco campground for a few days (before unexpected high winds and rain forced us to take it down in the middle of the night! lol)
Kite surfing is a popular pastime in Pamlico Sound.
Betty, Charlie (and Graham) enjoy their happy place at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, or the Outer Banks (OBX) as the locals call it.
Last of the pics that wouldn’t previously load: Some of the trees in Pettigrew State Park were big enough for Betty & Charlie to stand inside.

Myrtle Beach

There are certain reference points in our travels north, south, east and west, that mark our journey across the continent – like dipping a toe in the Atlantic, and then the Pacific. Myrtle Beach State Park was a favourite stopping point in childhood camping trips up and down the U.S. eastern seaboard, and comes to mind whenever I think of “must visit” east coast locations.

Our site (#155) at Myrtle Beach State Park.

The state park doesn’t seem to have changed much in the past 50 years (with the exception of adding wifi, water & electricity to most of its 350 sites, and also sewer connections to some) and that is a good thing. It is situated on the south side of Myrtle Beach on a prime piece of oceanfront property, with about a mile of sand along its

The attractive road through the forest to the campground.

Grand Strand beach. Many hotels have been added to the Atlantic coastline at Myrtle Beach, but it is nice to see the thick maritime vegetation, with numerous hiking trails, picnic areas, and bike paths within the park.

This is a relatively brief visit, as we make our way up the coast to Cape Hatteras, but thought I’d take the time to add a little update while

Betty’s new sewing centre – amazing creativity at work here!

Betty works her magic in her new sewing centre at the back of our home-on-wheels. It’s been a “must visit”, but will need to be a “must visit again” to get the full impact of this beautiful spot, or as they say in the south: “Y’all come back now, ya hear!”

Cheers!

Heading to the beach after our drive from Sesquicentennial State Park in Columbia.
Betty & Charlie enjoy a late day break at Myrtle Beach. The park’s fishing pier is in the background.
Betty & Charlie catch a wave, or the wave catches them… at Myrtle Beach State Park.
A distant view of the older section of downtown Myrtle Beach, much as I remember it (although I think the second building on the right was an auction house back in the day).
This pic has nothing to do with Myrtle Beach, but our dear son Andrew seems to have fixed the problem with portrait pics not rotating to vertical. Yea! Thanks Andrew! (It’s a pic of the new kitchen faucet I recently installed.) Cheers!

Black and White

In the background is the steeple of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC where a white supremacist killed 9 African-Americans in 2015 – a huge tragedy for humanity.

In documenting our travels, it has become my practice to review our pictures each week and wait for them to tell their story. The message I scribe is most often a joyous one, as Betty & I are very much enjoying what we are seeing on our overlandish adventure. At some point this week – most likely while returning my camera to its bag – the settings unintentionally changed from colour (or color in U.S.A.) to black & white. We took historic city tours through Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina, and are now camped at Sesquicentennial State Park in Columbia, South Carolina, a park I last visited with my parents over 50 years ago. While we are keenly aware of the history of difficult race relations in this part of America, Betty & I have experienced nothing but the warmest of southern hospitality from blacks and whites during this visit. This blog post highlights our brief time here.

A beachfront home on Amelia Island, as seen from our motorhome on A1A.

After the RVillage rally in Live Oak, Florida, we journeyed east through Jacksonville to Amelia Island, making a brief loop around the island and its many golf courses before stopping for the night in site #8 at Crooked River State Park, just over the Georgia border. (How nice to visit a state named after our youngest granddaughter! Lol.)

Our site (#8) at Crooked River State Park, Georgia.

A short drive up the coast from Crooked River took us to Skidaway Island State Park on the outskirts of Savannah. A popular park, we were unable to book a single site for two nights, but made the quick trip from site #64 on our first night to site #1 for our second. As has been our practice in many new cities, we took an enjoyable trolley tour around Savannah, whetting our appetite to see more of this attractive, historic city on a future occasion.

Bet has Georgia on her mind – the state and our granddaughter!
Site 64 at Skidaway Island State Park, near Savannah, Georgia
An elegant private home in historic Savannah.
One of 22 squares in downtown Savannah. The city was originally designed with 24 public squares, and all but 2 still exist.
Betty & I enjoyed strolling through Savannah’s City Market.
Site #1 at Skidaway Island State Park. Spanish moss is a common element in the deep south. Unfortunately, the grey moss is not highlighted in a black & white photo.
Betty & Charlie relax under the spanish moss covered trees at Site #1.
Viewed across the Charleston harbor, Fort Sumter was where America’s Civil War began.
In downtown Charleston, many of the older homes are graced with large, multi-level verandas, called piazzas.
A side view of this elegant old home in Charleston, SC.
More beautiful wide porches. The Emergency Exit sign is in our tour bus, not on the home. lol
One of Charleston’s narrow side streets.
This one’s made of cobblestones which had been used as ballast on incoming ships from foreign countries, including Canada. The street leads to the harbour..
Majestic live oaks arch over the streets in Charleston, SC.

Our next stop was Charleston, South Carolina, where we found a full service site (#P3) at Oak Plantation Campground. Since the site was unavailable for a second night, we moved to a local Walmart where we stocked up on groceries, unhooked the Smart, and headed for another guided tour of this beautiful old city.

Taken with Bet’s phone, this picture shows Charleston’s unique style of “single house” with a side door leading to an outside porch.
In Charleston, the double covered porches are called piazzas, and the door only appears to lead into the home.
Taken with my cell phone, Stephen Colbert also enjoyed Sticky Fingers, in his home city of Charleston, SC

After dinner at downtown Charleston’s Sticky Fingers, we decided to hook back up at Walmart and head out to an I26 rest area near Orangeburg, SC.

President George W. was also a fan of this Charleston restaurant, which serves delicious ribs & wings with a variety of tasty sauces available on each table.

To our surprise, a hose blew off from our water pump shortly after our arrival at the rest stop, and we were without water for the night.  But John’s RV in nearby Lexington, SC fixed our plumbing problem and got us back on the road again the next morning. As mentioned, we are now in site 29 of loop 1 in Sesquicentennial State Park in Columbia, SC., trying to confirm or deny a childhood memory that each of the sand-covered tent sites was raked in a herringbone pattern when my family visited over 50 years ago. Well, the sand is still here on tent sites but it is not raked between visitors. Of course, many of the sites now have electricity & water, and gravel has been added as

Our current site (#29) at Sesquicentennial State Park in Columbia, SC. Our last black & white pic, thankfully!

a parking base. The campground still has work to be done to level quite a number of sites, whose uneven elevation is not apparent on campground maps. But it is still a nice large park on the outskirts of Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina.

Gavin gets in on the sticker fun, adding South Carolina to our map.

During our time in America’s deep south – with its historic plantations and slave cabins – we  have purposely sought out encounters with its inhabitants. It is difficult to capture the complexities and nuances in a brief post, especially one labelled Black & White. But permit me to relate a couple of very brief stories (each of which could take a separate post…).

The Haircut: I have always been cautious about who cuts my hair, but purposely chose a barber shop with four black barbers and a shop full of African-American customers. When my turn came for a cut, I had some difficulty describing a “normal” haircut, when no one in the room had hair like mine. Lol.  It was my first haircut without scissors being used – just razors – and it took place with the chair turned away from the mirror on the wall, so I had to put my trust in the barber. Would I leave with the logo of a popular sports team carved on the back of my head? Well, due to hair loss in that area, the possibility was significantly lessened, and I don’t have the tight curls that make that job easier. Lol.  In any event, I was warmly welcomed by everyone in the shop, with handshakes and heartfelt thanks for coming from each of the barbers as I left. BTW, I’m happy with the haircut, too!

Windsor United Methodist church in the suburbs of Columbia, SC. With my camera settings adjusted, the pic still shows the cars in black & white. lol.

The fiery preacher:  For church on Sunday, Betty & I chose the nearest church to our campground, which turned out to be Windsor United Methodist Church with a mainly white congregation, but a lively black female minister. Rev. Leatha Brown’s message on forgiveness – both the need to extend and receive forgiveness – seemed most impactful personally and in a part of America where black & white have struggled with reconciliation.

May we pray that we can all turn the lenses through which we view the world from black & white to see the richness of full color around us?

Cheers

The flowers on the church lawn were in vibrant colours. Glad to have the color in our lives!